What the Celtics can and can’t do with a potential disabled player exception for Gordon Hayward

Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: Celtics were awarded a disabled player exception by the league on Friday, according to Shams Charamia of the Vertical

Gordon Hayward’s horrific leg injury on opening night left the Celtics in quite the bind as the start of an 82-game grind began. While there is no way for the Celtics to find a replacement with Hayward’s talent level, there are some methods for them to pursue some additional reinforcements for rest of the regular season slate as Hayward (likely) watches all of it from the sidelines. One of these avenues of improvement is applying for the disabled player exception, something Danny Ainge confirmed to the Boston Globe that the team will do in the coming weeks.

So what exactly does a DPE mean? What can the Celtics do with it? And is there even a guarantee the Celtics will be granted it for Hayward’s injury? Let’s break down the specifics with a Q-and-A to better understand what lies ahead.

Q: What is a disabled player exception?
A: The DPE is an exception to the salary cap like any other exception (mid-level exception, room exception etc.) Teams can apply for it when they believe they have lost a player to a season-ending injury and could use additional resources to pursue a player replacement.

Q: What is the process like for a team when applying for a DPE?
A: Any team can apply for the DPE up until January 15th of the NBA calendar year. A player’s medical information is submitted and examined by an independent doctor that is approved by the league. Said doctor evaluates the player’s medical information and (if needed) can examine a player and the specific injury. At that point, the doctor makes a determination on whether said player is more likely than not to miss the remainder of the NBA season (June 15 is used as an end of season date since it’s the end of NBA Finals). If the doctor believes it is substantially more likely than not that the player will miss the season, a team is granted the DPE. Otherwise, the application is rejected.

Q: What if a team disagrees with the doctor’s findings?
A: The player’s association has the right to appeal any ruling found by the independent doctor approved by the NBA. In the case of an appeal, a neutral physician, who is agreed upon by the league and the player’s association, examines the medical information and makes a ruling on the criteria. This ruling cannot be appealed.

Q: Can a team re-apply for the DPE if they are initially rejected?
A: Yes, a team can re-apply 90 days after their first application if there has been a new development with an injury. This would be useful in an instance where Hayward perhaps suffered a setback in his rehab and his recovery timetable was pushed back considerably from the original estimate.

Q: How long does the DPE approval process take?
A: League sources told Bostonsportsjournal.com that the time varies depending on the specifics and complexity of an injury case, but it’s usually a matter of days or a week after the application is officially submitted that a determination is made.

Q: If the DPE is granted to the Celtics, would that rule out the possibility of Gordon Hayward returning this year?
A: No. If Hayward returns ahead of schedule, he would be allowed to play, even if the Celtics had already used the DPE to acquire a player. Additionally, the Celtics could still continue using the player acquired by the DPE while Hayward played. They would need to forfeit the DPE though if it was unused before Hayward returned.

Q: How much would a DPE be worth for Hayward?
A: A DPE for Hayward would be worth the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which is equal to $8.4 million.

Q: Can the DPE be used on multiple players?
A: No, it could only be used one player via trade, free agency or claiming a player on waivers.

Q: Are there any other restrictions on the DPE?
A: It can only be used on a player in the last season of their contract (if acquiring a player via trade or free agency). It also must be used by March 10th of the NBA season.

Q: What players (realistically) would be available for the Celtics for the DPE?
A: I broke down some of the more notable realistic names that could be available below: